Roger Foote on a training run this week at Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs, California. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Bears, snakes, skunks for company

MAZZ SCANNELL

Carterton man Roger Foote started yesterday on a 1500km endurance cycle race taking in California, Utah, Arizona, and Colarado in the United States – and he wants to finish in 80 hours.

He is racing solo in the Race Across the West which takes competitors from 56 metres below sea level to 2500m into the mountains of Alamonia, Colorado.

Temperatures could hit 45 degrees Celsius as Foote crosses the Mojave Desert in California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona

He wears a cooling vest when he is riding through the desert but also has some low-tech options.

“If it gets too hot, I will tuck a wet linen tea-towel under my helmet to keep my head cool,” he said.

The endurance race was established in 2008, and this year there are 100 solo riders, as well as team and relay categories.

The attrition rate is high – last year 40 per cent of the starters did not finish.

Foote plans to rest three times in each 24-hour period, with the most luxurious stop a three-hour break.

He will take off his shoes and sleep in the back of the support van while his crew massage his legs and maintain his bike.

The other stops will be shorter, depending on how he is feeling, usually two small breaks of up to 18 minutes each.

Foote tries to “eat normally” with a six-inch sub and meal replacement drinks, keeping his daily calorie count from 8000 to 10,000 energy units.

His water bottles are constantly replenished throughout the race – he drinks about 1 litre an hour.

Despite riding solo, he’s not likely to get lonely – his support car follows closely behind and there is wildlife to keep him alert.

“I have not seen a bear yet, but I have seen plenty of skunks, deer, foxes and once a mountain cat. The snakes are enormous – I am careful not to run them over.”

Planning for the race includes minimising injuries. Foote makes sure that his equipment is broken-in and he does neck exercises while riding to avoid “Shermer’s neck”, a collapse of the neck muscles which leaves riders unable to lift their heads.

He hopes the desert sections will be calm as past cyclists have had to pull out because of sand in their lungs.

Foote is using the race as a training run for the Race Across America next year – a 7700km ride, crossing 12 states and climbing 53,000m.

“It is about mind over body, you race yourself. I am looking forward to doing the big one next year.”